History of the Kingdom of Kongo, 15th-17th Century
The Kingdom of Kongo was established in the 15th century by the BAKONGO who invaded from the north, subdued the local inhabitants and over time had them assimilate into the Bakongo. Their kingdom was located on the southern bank of the Congo River estuary, MBANZA KONGO, the capital.
When Portuguese discoverer DIOGO CAO arrived (1483) he found the Kingdom of Kongo a promising trade partner; King NZINGA NKUWU realized the potential of European science, sent an emissary to Portugal and let missionaries in his country.
From the middle of the 16th century on, Portugal's prime interest was in African slaves to work the sugar plantations of Brazil and Fernando Poo; the Portuguese-Kongolese relations deteriorated. When Kongolese King ALVARO I. was ousted in 1568, a Portuguese force placed him back on his throne in 1571; the Portuguese estanblished their rule in the region around LUANDA, to the south of the Kongolese Kingdom; Luanda became a major source of slaves.
Since 1622, a number of wars between the Portuguese and Kongolese resulted in the collapse of the Kongolese-Portuguese trade. In 1641, the Manikongo Garcia I. chose an alliance with the Dutch against the Portuguese; the Portuguese were victorious, defeated the Kongolese in 1665. The Kongolese kingdom, now a Portugurese vassal, slowly disintegrated, as the provinces gained more and more autonomy; the institution of kingship finally discontinued in the 18th century.
Once having been a powerful Kingdom, Congo was featured on most African maps until into the 19th century, a fate the Kongo shared with Mwanamutapa.
In the 19th century the area became part of the Portuguese ANGOLA COLONY, the capital Mbanza Kongo renamed SAO SALVADOR DO CONGO. When King Leopold of Belgium succeeded in establishing a colony in Central Africa, it was given the name CONGO FREE STATE, after the dissolved kingdom; similarly, the French called their new colony to the north of the river (French) Congo. Both colonies and their successor states extend far beyond the historic kingdom.
However, most of the historic kingdom formed a part of Portuguese Angola. Although the monarchy had faded away long ago, a strong cultural identity of the Bakongo remained.
FILES Library of Congress, Country Studies : Angola
Kingdom of Kongo, from Columbia Encyclopedia
Virtual Tour through Angola's History : Precolonial Period, Early Colonial Period, from Angola.org
The Peoples of the Kongo, from Royal Museum for Central Africa
The Ba Kongo Kingdom, in : the former Kingdoms, from Democratic Republic of Congo Homepage
DOCUMENTS Map of 1635 by Willem Jansz. Blaeu, Aethiopia inferioris, from Yale Univ. Library, shows CONGO REGNUM (Kingdom og Congo)
Map of 1707 by Homann from James Ford Bell Library has CONGO REGNUM
Map of 1795, from Blondeau from Yale Univ. Library, features CONGO
Map of 1808 by R. Brookes, General Gazetteer, 1808 from Perry Castaneda Library, UTexas, has CONGO
Map of 1821 by William C. Woodbridge, Africa from Yale Univ. Library, shows CONGO
Map of 1824 by Anthony Finley, from Yale Univ. Library, shows Congo
Map of 1829 by Eustache Herisson, Carte Generale de l'Afrique, 1829, from Perry Castaneda Library, UTexas; very detailed, Royaume du Congo